How to Bring Back an Injured Player
Soccer players have injuries all the time. At the professional level, with the game so fast and physical, many players simply cannot keep up with the intensity of the sport. Often a slight knock or pulled hamstring can take a player out of the game for 3 weeks, and sometimes more serious injuries like a torn ACL can require a full year of recovery.
As a coach, one must make a difficult decision regarding bringing the player back into the side after a spell on the sidelines. The coach must ensure that the soccer player has recovered adequately and has also had enough time to get physically prepped for the game again.
With high profile soccer games endlessly on the horizon, many players are rushed back into action and the results can sometimes be catastrophic. Any NFL fan saw what happened to rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III when he was rushed back to the field for a playoff game. After tearing two knee ligaments his entire next season is now in doubt.
Therefore, be patient and ease an injured player back into the side. First off, when he or she says they are ready, have them start with some light jogging. Sometimes, this strain on the injured muscles will enable a player to understand that they need more time off. After the light jog, which should be just a mile or so of running, wait a day.
How the player feels the next day is hugely important. Soreness or tightness around the injury will suggest using a cautious approach. If the player feels good, then it is time to get them into practice with other players. Don’t throw back into a competitive game until they are ready!
Start with a simple training exercise like passing, or a pass and move drill with minimal physical contact. Depending on how long the player has been out, their game will have probably lost a step. For players that have been out for over a year, they may need several weeks of training before they are game ready.
Once a player looks comfortable in light training, then you can elevate them back to full squad training. Again, wait a day between this transition. You must analyze how the player’s body reacts to the intensity.
Also, really make sure the player is alright by watching how they run. Are they avoiding kicking with their injured leg, or is there a slight hobble to their step? Most players will try to rush back from an injury because they want to play. But a coach must make the final decision and don’t be swayed by an anxious player or parent. Make sure the child is ready.
When bringing them back into a real game, begin by limiting their time on the pitch. A full game can be exhausting to a recently injured body and can also increase the odds of a re-injury. Therefore, start with them on the bench and work the player back into the fold slowly. By the 2nd or 3rd game, if the player looks sharp again, you can give them a start.
The purpose of bringing a player back slowly from injury is to help their body slowly adapt to playing the game again. It can be very frustrating for a young soccer player, especially if there are any setbacks, but it is a long road that should be taken to ensure the safety of your players.